What is caffeine and how does it affect our health?

Billions of people around the world look forward to their regular dose of caffeine in the form of a fragrant cup of coffee every morning. It is no wonder that coffee is one of the most widely used raw materials worldwide. Of its ingredients, caffeine is most often discussed, or its negative effect on sleep or anxiety. However, other studies report different health benefits. How does caffeine fare in current scientific research? Is it healthy, or rather harmful to our organism?

What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that is a natural part of some types of tea, coffee and cocoa plants. Its main effect is stimulation of the brain and central nervous system. It also increases concentration and delays the onset of fatigue.

Caffeine is believed to have been consumed many thousands of years ago, when people began to notice the stimulating effects of chewing the seeds, bark or leaves of certain plants. Hundreds of years later, it was discovered that the stimulating effect is further enhanced by dousing the plants with hot water. Coffee drinks similar to the ones we drink today are first mentioned in historical sources from the 9th century AD. The most famous legend attributes the "discovery" of coffee to an Ethiopian goat herder. He noticed that the goats that grazed the coffee tree were significantly more active and slept less. So he tried to eat some of the fruits of the coffee tree and noted the same stimulating effects.

Caffeinated soft drinks were introduced in the late 19th century and were soon followed by popular energy drinks. Currently, up to 80% of the world's population consumes some caffeine product every day. For adults in North America, this proportion is even more than 90%. [ 1 ]

How does caffeine work?

The rapid effect of caffeine is related to the fact that it is almost immediately absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream after consumption. It then travels to the liver and is broken down into compounds that affect the function of various organs. Caffeine affects our brain the most, mainly by blocking the effects of a substance called adenosine. This nucleoside, on the other hand, calms down brain activity and causes fatigue. The level of adenosine in the human body naturally increases during the day, so over time we become more and more tired and want to sleep.

Caffeine has the ability to block adenosine molecules, thereby reducing feelings of fatigue and, on the contrary, keeping us awake and increasing our attention. In addition, caffeine increases the level of adrenaline in the blood, thereby simultaneously stimulating the activity of nerve transmitters (neurotransmitters) such as dopamine and noradrenaline. This is another reason why after consuming caffeine we feel mentally alert, focused and able to develop a higher mental and physical performance. Because of its effects on brain activity, caffeine is often referred to as a psychoactive drug. The caffeine effect begins to manifest approximately 20 minutes after consumption and peaks after about 1 hour.

Natural sources of caffeine are seeds, nuts and also the leaves of some types of plants. After processing, these crops are used in the production of caffeinated foods and beverages.

How much caffeine does 250 ml of your favorite drinks contain? [ 2 ]

- Espresso: 250-730 mg
- Coffee: 110-210 mg
- Yerba mate tea: 70-150 mg
- Energy drinks: 60–170 mg
- Brewed tea: 50-130 mg
- Soft drinks: 250-40 mg
- Decaffeinated coffee: 6-14 mg
- Cocoa drink: 3-8 mg
- Chocolate milk: 3-8 mg

Caffeine is also found in some common foods, such as chocolate. A 28g portion of milk chocolate contains 1–15 mg of caffeine, while dark chocolate contains 5–35 mg of caffeine.

It is also possible to find caffeine in some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications for colds, allergies and pain. It can also be found in the composition of many weight loss products.

How does caffeine affect the human body?

1. Improves mood and brain function

As we have already mentioned, caffeine has the ability to block adenosine molecules and, on the contrary, enhances the effect of molecules such as dopamine or norepinephrine. These changes in processes inside the brain are associated with a positive effect on mood and brain function. Scientific studies investigating the effects of caffeine on the human body have concluded, for example, that after consuming caffeine (in varying amounts from 37.5 to 450 mg), participants showed more alertness, better short-term memory and shorter reaction times. Also interesting are the results of a study that concluded that drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day (which corresponds to about 200-300 mg of caffeine) reduces the risk of suicidal tendencies by 45%. [ 3 ] Another study recorded a 13% lower risk of depression in regular caffeine consumers. [ 4 ]

However, there is no direct correlation between the amount of caffeine consumed and the improvement in mood. The first cup of coffee always has the greatest effect. The second or subsequent cups no longer bring a noticeable effect in this regard, if they are consumed less than 8 hours after the first cup. [ 5 ] Drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee or more than 3 cups of tea per day can reduce the risk of developing brain diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease by 28-60%. [ 6 ]

2. Supports metabolism and fat burning

Thanks to its ability to stimulate the central nervous system, caffeine can accelerate metabolism by up to 11% and the amount of fat burned by the body by up to 13%. [ 7 ] In practice, this means that if you consume 300 mg of caffeine per day, you will burn an extra 79 calories. At first glance, it may seem that this is a negligible amount of energy, but with a similar caloric surplus, weight increases by 1 kg per year.

3. Improves sports performance

Another effect of caffeine is that it increases the utilization of fat as fuel, which is beneficial for the body. This is because glucose lasts longer in the muscles and thus increases the time after which the muscle reaches exhaustion. Caffeine also improves the ability of muscles to contract and increases resistance to fatigue. According to scientific research, athletes who consumed 5 mg of caffeine per 1 kg of body weight an hour before training improved endurance performance by up to 5%. [ 8 ] Studies related to team sports and intensive or resistance training also achieved similar results. Finally, caffeine reduces perceived exertion during exercise by 5.6%, which also supports athletic performance. [ 9 ]

4. May protect against heart disease and diabetes

The latest scientific research concludes that caffeine not only does not increase the risk of heart disease, but actually has the opposite effect. Men and women who drink 1 to 4 cups of coffee per day (that's roughly 100-400 mg of caffeine) have a 16-18% lower risk of heart disease. [ 10 ] Other studies, in turn, associate drinking 2 to 4 cups of coffee or green tea per day with a 14-20% lower risk of stroke. [ 11 ]

On the other hand, it should be remembered that caffeine can increase blood pressure in some people. This is particularly problematic for people who commonly exhibit hypertension. The effect of coffee on blood pressure is generally relatively small (3–4 mmHg) and in most individuals it also gradually disappears with regular coffee consumption. [ 12 ] 

Studies investigating the effect of caffeine on the development of diabetes have also produced remarkable results. Their conclusions indicate that those who drink a lot of coffee have a 29% lower risk of developing type II diabetes. type. And it's the same for people who consume a high amount of caffeine - for them, this probability is up to 30% lower. [ 13 ]

It is interesting, however, that the consumption of decaffeinated coffee is also associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes, in this case by a significant 21%. [ 14 ] This suggests that before diabetes II. other beneficial substances contained in coffee can also protect the type.

5. Other health benefits of coffee

Regular coffee drinking is associated with other health benefits. A daily fragrant cup can support the health of the liver, skin and digestive tract. It can also prolong life and help prevent a number of diseases. However, it should be mentioned here that some of the positive benefits of coffee can be caused by substances other than caffeine.

  • Liver protection – Coffee can reduce the risk of liver damage (cirrhosis) by up to 84%. If the disease occurs, it slows down its progression, increases the effectiveness of treatment and reduces the risk of premature death. [ 15 ]
  • Longevity – Drinking coffee can reduce the risk of premature death by up to 30%, especially in women and patients with diabetes. [ 16 ]
  • Reducing the risk of cancer - Drinking 2-4 cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of liver cancer by up to 64% and colon cancer by 38%. [ 17 ] 
  • Skin protection - 4 or more cups of coffee a day can reduce the chance of skin cancer by up to 20%. [ 18 ]
  • Lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis – Drinking coffee regularly can reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis by up to 30%. [ 19 ]
  • Prevention of gout - Drinking 4 cups of coffee a day can lower the risk of developing gout: in men by 40% and in women by 57%. [ 20 ]
  • Gut Health – Drinking 3 cups of coffee a day for just 3 weeks can increase the amount and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. [ 21 ]

Side effects

Although caffeine consumption is proven to be habit forming, it is generally considered safe. The most common side effects are anxiety, restlessness, stress, irregular heartbeat and sleep problems. For many people, excessive amounts of caffeine can cause headaches, migraines or high blood pressure.

In addition, caffeine easily crosses the placenta, which may be the reason for the low birth weight of newborns. [ 22 ] Pregnant women should therefore limit their caffeine intake. Patients taking certain medications (for example, muscle relaxants and antidepressants) should consult their doctor about the safety of coffee consumption.

A safe daily dose

Both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the US Department of Agriculture consider a safe daily caffeine intake of up to 400 mg. This equates to roughly 2-4 cups of coffee. [ 23 ] Fatal coffee overdoses have been reported with single doses exceeding 500 mg of caffeine, so it is recommended to limit a single dose to no more than 200 mg. [ 24 ] Pregnant women should then limit their total daily caffeine intake to 200 mg. [ 25 ]

Caffeine and coffee for health

Opinions on the health benefits of coffee and caffeine have varied widely over time. Currently, however, there is a relative consensus that the health benefits outweigh the negative effects. For this reason, you can consider your daily cup of coffee or tea as a pleasant way to support your health. Today, you also have the opportunity to enjoy the maximum positive effects of coffee without the undesirable ones, such as the subsequent sharp drop in energy. In addition to the highest quality Brazilian Arabica, our Mindflow Active Coffee also contains an amino acid from green tea and other substances supporting a long-term effect. You will see that the excellent taste and great cognitive effects will raise your cup of coffee to a new level.

We have a solution for you, even if you are not a coffee lover. Our Mindflow Focus 2.0 capsules contain 12 natural substances, led by caffeine, guarana and vitamin B12. Even in this case, the result is an immediate rush of energy, maximum concentration and the functioning of cognitive functions. This completely unique combination of natural ingredients will give you a kick whenever you need it.